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Letters to the editor

Roger Brown

The debate on immigration reminds me of another not so widely debated issue, drug smuggling. When we start talking about solving the drug problem do we go after the producer, the distributor, or the user? Do we solve the problem in the country of origin, Columbia, Bolivia, etc., or in the country of destination, the United States? Same with immigration. Where do we tackle the problem? We have had poor luck closing our borders to illegal immigration, and a lot of our businesses, including Wal-Mart, depend on these immigrants to make their operations more profitable. No matter that the illegal immigrants strain our social services, schools, medical facilities, etc. In the end it’s about the bottom line for businesses. Our governments seem too weak to aggressively address the social costs. So do we try to accommodate the people who immigrate illegally, or do we just put up walls and try to create policies to stop them? Should we be compassionate as a nation in this regard, or just tough? And will “tough” bite us economically just as much as being kind and generous? Bolivia is an interesting case in point in regard to drugs. For decades we have had a small army of CIA agents in Bolivia doing as much as possible to stop cocaine production. This effort has involved defoliation of the coca plantations, which not only destroys the coca plants but other vegetation as well, including food supplies. Coca tea is the national drink in Bolivia and not illegal anywhere in the world as far as I know. The drug cocaine is another matter, made from highly concentrated derivatives of the coca plant. Eradicating coca in Bolivia, however, is something like prohibiting the use of coffee in this country. Not a popular move. Maybe we have to face up to the fact that the user of cocaine is really the problem and put our corrective efforts there. Likewise, maybe the employers of illegal immigrants are the problem more than the immigrants themselves. Or to ask the question another way, “Who is exploiting whom?” Recently Bolivia elected Evo Morales, a coca grower, as the president of that country by a wide margin. A few years back Hugo Chavez became the president of Venezuela. Chavez is a more serious problem for United States since Venezuela is a major oil supplier, but Bolivia is not a small problem in the minds of many U. S. politicians either. Both South American presidents won with anti American campaigns. They are not looking for our help. Does this signal the end of the era of exploitation and domination of the banana republics by the U.S. under the thinly disguised policies of self interest called economic aid? Do we need a new approach to the Third World that is less exploitive and will this new approach change immigration patterns? Possibly. In the long run I think the solution lies in helping countries like Mexico improve conditions internally, at home, so that illegal immigration becomes a less attractive option. This is a complicated subject, so I can only open up a discussion in a letter like this. Following are a few suggestions. One order of business will be to stop the practice of exporting capitalism to the Third World without first establishing a functioning democracy that can hold corruption in check. Most Third World countries I have visited have seriously corrupted governments. As a result the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Sound familiar? We seem to be headed that way, as well. A second order of business will be for us to stop exporting the dream of an impossible life style through our media. It has been estimated that we would need four planets the size of Earth ( with Earth’s resources ) to support the current world’s population in the lifestyle many of us are used to. This begs another question. Does economic globalization raise everyone’s standard of living, or bring everyone down to a lower level, and do we go down voluntarily, by stealth, or default? A third suggestion, encourage communities everywhere in the world to be independent and self sustaining. Goods for export should only be the result excessive production, not a community’s reason for being. In this way the communities will become far less vulnerable to exploitation from the outside. Who are the exploiters other than the corrupted local government officials? You guessed it. The goods we buy are cheap for a reason. Maybe it has something to do with the cost of labor. Self-sufficient communities, on the other hand, have to be good places to live in because they are in control of their own destinies, and hopefully the distribution of wealth. A last suggestion. Face up to the fact that the golden age of out-of-control material consumption is over. Without an abundant supply of cheap fossil fuels, the economy we live in today can’t be sustained. The sooner we learn to live more simply, the easier it will be to deal with the future. As we live more simply, the inequities that fuel immigration should start to subside. It’s a long difficult road, but there are few other options. Happy New Year. Roger Brown Gypsum


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